Google's plans to begin public road testing of self-driving cars that do without a steering wheel and brake pedal have been killed off by new rules in California.
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In May this year Google made global headlines when it demonstrated a prototype self-driving vehicle (above) that had neither steering wheel nor brake pedal.

Up until now, the search giant has been testing steering wheel and brake pedal-free autonomous vehicles on closed courses. It had hoped to test such vehicles on public roads, but that plan has effectively been nixed by California's Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

The state's new rules for self-driving cars, which come into effect from September 16, specifies that autonomous vehicles on public roads must have controls so that the driver is "capable of taking over immediate physical control".

Although the company could have attempted public road testing in a different state, Google told the Wall Street Journal that it would comply with its home state's rules. Google spokeswoman Courtney Hohne added that "with these additions, our safety drivers can test the self-driving features, while having the ability to take control of the vehicle if necessary".

According to Ron Medford, safety director for Google's self-driving car project, the company asked California's DMV if it could test other types of autonomous vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks, but was denied.

Despite this setback, Google still plans to build around 100 autonomous test vehicles, and each will have their maximum speed limited to 40km/h.